Jamal Mayers had to wait until Round 4 to hear his name called at the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. So in the meantime, he saved a child’s life.
That Mayers, the 89th-overall choice by the St. Louis Blues, would go on to play roughly 300 more NHL games than the No. 1 pick that year (Ottawa’s Alexandre Daigle) is not even close to the most noteworthy piece of information to come out of that day at the Colisee de Quebec.
It’s that some unknown 30-year-old out there owes his life to a retired Stanley Cup champion with 1,200 penalty minutes.
We caught up with Mayers — a 41-year-old community liaison for the Chicago Blackhawks and NHL analyst — while he was doing something else helpful: raising money for Alzheimer’s at the Scotiabank Pro-Am for Alzheimer’s in Toronto. He shared his draft story:
“I remember we drove all the way to Quebec City. Three buddies came to visit and watch. I remember a kid ate too much pizza, literally, and I’m in Quebec City in a suit in the summer. June 26th. I had to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on a seven-year-old to save his life. I was sweating to death.
“My brother, who had been studying to become an ambulance attendant, had been walking the concourse, and he had practiced on me how to do these different manoeuvres. So I had to do it to save this seven-year-old’s life. A stranger.
“His grandmother said, ‘He’s choking!’ I jumped down to his seat. I thought I was going to break his ribs when I was giving him the Heimlich manoeuvre. He choked up a huge chunk of cheese about this big [makes a baseball-sized mozzarella fist]. Never had to use the Heimlich again. Then I sat back down in my seat, dripping with sweat. Just sweating out of my suit waiting to get drafted. I was 18.
Yes I did have hair! June 1993 NHL Draft in Quebec City pic.twitter.com/K3YIgKPC
— Jamal Mayers (@jamalmayers) June 2, 2012
“This was just a fan. Not my fan. [laughs] Just a kid. He couldn’t breathe, and I helped him out. It was scary. I never saw him after that. I was sitting there sweating through my suit. My name gets called, and they’re like, ‘Wow, you’re really sweating.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, because I saved a kid’s life up there.’
“The whole section saw me do this. So when I actually did get drafted 89th — which was two hours after the first round started — the whole section stood up and clapped because they saw me save this kid’s life. So funny. No one had cheered for, like, two hours at this point because, y’know, it’s the fourth round. That’s my story.”